Despite the mesmerizing beauty, Tolikara is a regency in West Papua that is rather hard to visit. The town of Karubaga is one of the few ways to reach the area. Wamena is the farthest we can get to the area before taking a small airplane to get to Karubaga airport.
The Path to Tolikara
It takes around 3 – 4 hours to get from Wamena to Tolikara. Yet, the road is rather steep and surrounded by large trees shading some parts of the road. Before you can get to Tolikara, the most possible track is to fly from Sentani Airport in Jayapura to Wamena and continue the trip by car to Tolikara.
Counting around 100 kilometers in distance, there was a certain need to go from Wamena to Tolikara without having to go down the rough trip. Not only that the road is winding and going around a mountain, but the unpredictable weather of Tolikara also makes the trip impossible sometimes.
As a solution to this problem, the Karubaga airport is built to add connections between West Papuan airport. In 2019, the airport received a renewal of runway and apron overlay. This renovation was done in the hope that the airport can contain more flights as the traffic gets bigger in number.
Karubaga, a Small Town with Functional Airport
Besides runway renovation, the West Papua government has been cooperating to provide the Karubaga Airport. Since the Karubaga Airport operates, we can now take a direct flight from Sentani Airport there. It has been helping not only in terms of tourism in Tolikara but also for the trade and other activities.
The runway expands for 750 meters and has a width of 23 meters. The size is rather small for an airport, so it can only serve small aircrafts, such as DHC6, Cessna 208, and Pilatus PC-6 Porter. One of the most popular airways that serve this trip is Susi Air Dimonim, AMF, along with some private-owned and military aircraft.
For those who are on their first trip to Karubaga, the flight landing might feel a bit scary since the airport is situated side by side with the housings. However, the small aircraft pilots are the expert in flying to remote areas, so there should be no worries.
There are fixed schedules for the flights between each airport. For example, Wamena – Karubaga – Wamena route only flies every Monday and Tuesday. Meanwhile, Sentani – Karubaga – Sentani flights are on Mondays and Saturdays.
What to Expect when Arriving in Karubaga
Once you see the town Karubaga from the heights, you can spot honai or the traditional houses of West Papua. The variety of sizes of honai gives us an insight into the culture and the way the West Papuan live. Among the traditional houses, there are also more modern houses around the town.
The steep landscape around the Karubaga sets the town as the paragliding venue in the upcoming national sports week PON XX West Papua. At the event mentioned, the Karubaga Airport would play an important role in transporting the event’s crew and athletes.
The Beauty of Karubaga and Tolikara
When arriving at Karubaga, you need to note several interesting places and events to visit. One of the most famous is the rock burning festival or known as upacara bakar batu in Indonesian. The festival basically involves everyone cooking together by digging a hole and putting burning rocks inside. Pork and chicken meats and vegetables are put into the hole. Lastly, they cover it with leaves and grass.
It is a symbol of tolerance and togetherness. It can be seen in how people prepare the food so fast and get everybody to work together. Each group brings what they can to the festival. When the cooking is done, they share the food for every group present there. Some say the festival is also a way to thank nature for its grace and products.
Another place to visit in Tolikara is Biuk Lake, located around 15 minutes from the town of Karubaga. The place is reachable by car, yet it is not officially a tourist destination. You may only find the beauty of the lake with its crystal clear water.
Just as you enter the area, you will find two large honai where the local people reside. If you are lucky enough to travel with the local guides, you can meet the people and learn about some of their cultures.
Karubaga in Tolikara is essentially a remote area that has destinations that are yet to be discovered. The altitude of the location gives a great view and a rough road at the same time. With the development of the Karubaga airport, the area is more accessible and can be a light of new destinations of tourism in West Papua.